Sarah Goodwin

Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
December 2, 1998


WHAT: Georgia Leadership Commission on Organ, Tissue, Blood and Marrow Donation Among African Americans is launching a series of PUBLIC HEARINGS across the state to address the shortage of organ, tissue, blood and marrow donations among African Americans in Georgia and to seek remedies to the situation. For the past two years, organ donation among African Americans in Georgia has not kept up with demand. According to Lifelink of Georgia, more than half of the nearly 850 Georgians awaiting lifesaving organ transplants are African American. Commissioners are traveling to Savannah and other cities by bus to host functions with local citizens, elected officials, clergy, health professionals, donor families, transplant recipients and people on the waiting list for a lifesaving transplant. To attend the dinner or speak at the hearings, the public may call 1-888-540-1038.

WHEN: Dec. 9-10

WHERE: Savannah


Wednesday, Dec. 9, 6:30 p.m., Dinner and Lecture

Savannah DeSoto Hilton Hotel, North Ballroom at 15 East Liberty Street, Savannah (912/232-9000)

Keynote speakers:

  • "Racial Differences in Access to and Outcomes of Renal Transplantation" by James J. Wynn, M.D., associate professor and chief, Section of General Surgery, Transplant Surgery, Medical College of Georgia
  • "Minority Donation, Transfusion and Transplantation: An Historical Perspective" by Jeff Koenreich, Regional Director, Donor Recruitment American Red Cross Blood Services, Southeastern Region, Savannah.

  • Thursday, Dec. 10, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

    The Third in a Series of Statewide Public Hearings in Georgia at Hyatt Regency Savannah, 2 West Bay St. Room, Harborside Center West

    • 9:30 a.m.- Introduction of Commissioners and Overview of Procedures for Public Hearings
  • 9:45 a.m.- Morning testimony begins. Each witness is allotted 15 minutes for opening remarks to be followed by questions from the Commissioners. Every effort will be made to accommodate as many witnesses as time allows.
    • 12:30 p.m. - Lunch Recess for Commissioners, Advisory Council, Staff and Guests
  • 2:15 p.m.- Afternoon testimony begins.
    • 5:15 p.m. - Adjourn

    According to Commission Organizer Stephen Thomas, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Minority Health Research at the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University, "Far too many African Americans refuse to sign donor cards because of concern about how organs are allocated, religious beliefs and lack of trust in the medical research establishment. During the hearings in Macon and Augusta we heard testimony from African-American transplant recipients who trusted their doctors and demonstrated how access to transplantation gave them a chance to live a quality life. More people in the black community need to hear these testimonies of hope."

    "It is very important that we listen to the voices of people who owe their lives to medical advances in organ and tissue transplantation," Dr. Thomas says. Emory received a grant from The Mason Trust to create the Commission.

    Related websites:


    • More than half (52 percent) of the nearly 900 Georgians awaiting organ transplantation are African American.
  • Fewer than 12 percent of all organ donations come from African Americans.
    • Some of those African Americans on waiting lists may continue on dialysis or even die because no 'matches' can be found for their kidneys; those 'matches' are most likely to be found with African-American donors.
  • In the past two years, organ donations from African-Americans have declined statewide.
    • Georgians who sign organ donor cards when applying for or renewing driver's licenses receive discounts.
  • Nationally, about 55,000 persons are on transplant waiting lists and about 4,000 of these persons die each year while awaiting a transplant.
    • That means every day about 55 Americans will receive a needed transplant but 10 will die because of organ unavailability.
  • In 1995, 27 percent of persons waiting for organ transplants were black, yet only 11.5 percent of all cadaveric donors were black (84 percent were white).
    • Nationally, blacks constitute 12.5 percent of the U.S. population, yet comprise more than 34 percent of patients on the kidney transplant waiting list. Since the late 1980s, donor education campaigns in the African-American community have been limited to increasing cadaveric donations. In 1991, the Office of the Inspector General reported that black transplant candidates waited almost twice as long as white candidates for kidney transplants. Analysis of data from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) shows that white candidates are removed from the national kidney transplant waiting list by living related donors at a rate more than three times greater that for blacks.


    Georgia Leadership Commission on Organ, Tissue, Blood and Marrow Donation Among African Americans: or

    Center for Transplantation: The Emory University Hospital Center for Transplantation is among the nation's 10 busiest sites for organ, tissue, blood and marrow transplantation. Specially trained teams of surgeons, nurses and other professionals perform about 600 transplant procedures each year, including the following: bone marrow, heart, lung, kidney, liver and cornea. Georgia's first liver, double-lung and pediatric heart transplants were performed by center staff. In addition, the center operates the Renaissance Project, a statewide donor education program. or

    Institute for Minority Health Research of Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health was established in 1993 to conduct research and provide interventions for a number of health issues faced by ethnic and racial minorities in the United States. A number of the institute's programs have received regional and national acclaim, including its efforts to increase awareness and dialogue of AIDS and HIV in the African-American faith community and the innovative Kids Alive & Loved (KAL) youth violence prevention and support program. Founder of the program and an institute staff member, Bernadette Leite, received in Spring 1998 both a Jefferson Award for Public Service from the American Institute for Public Service and a 1998 11Alive Community Service Award from Atlanta's WXIA-TV. or

    United Network for Organ Sharing: The transplant community is joined under a nationwide umbrella: the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS.

    UNOS administers the national Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) and the U.S. Scientific Registry on Organ Transplantation under contracts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The U.S. Scientific Registry is the most complete medical database in the world, tracking all solid organ transplants since Oct. 1, 1987. Through the UNOS Organ Center, organ donors are matched to waiting recipients 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. UNOS ensures that all patients have a fair chance at receiving the organ they need -- regardless of age, sex, race, lifestyle, religion, financial or social status.

    The Georgia Coalition on Donation: The Georgia Coalition is a nonprofit, statewide alliance created in 1995 to educate the public regarding organ and tissue donation. It is funded by a grant from the Carlos and Marguerite Mason Trust. 404/ 266-8884

    Minority Organ/Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP):

    With support from the National Institutes of Health and Howard University, this campaign is aimed at increasing awareness about donation and transplantation in the African-American community.

    LifeLink of Georgia's Minority Donation Education program (MDEP):

    MDEP was developed in 1994 for LifeLink of Georgia, the state's nonprofit, federally designated organ procurement agency, to address the disproportionate need for organ transplants in the African-American community. It is an educational program targeted toward African-American health professionals and those health care providers who cater to a predominantly African-American population.

    TransWeb: A web site devoted entirely to transplantation and donation.

    U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Organ Donation Web site:

    Call 888-90-SHARE for an organ donation brochure.

    For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences Communication's Office at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to

    Copyright ©Emory University, 1998. All Rights Reserved.